This is a victory of sorts, but we need to use the remaining time wisely to push for improvements, because I think the next decision will be the final vote rather than another delay.
There were several great remarks to the Council, including a creative interpretation of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" that featured a greedy corporate grinch despoiling Denton until he has an epiphany, goes green, and puts up solar panels (I think that is how it went - but I need to get my own copy so I can get the story right).
But I thought the best comments came from Pauline Raffestin - especially because she reminds us that we are working for our kids and for the future generations of Denton. Below, I have pasted her words with her permission. Thank you, Pauline, for sticking it out through this process - your voice is so important. And thank you to everyone else in Denton who has remained engaged. (A special shout out to Cathy and Sharon who went all the way to Austin to tell the Railroad Commission to start doing their job.)
My name is Pauline Raffestin. My husband and I have a 5 year-old son.
I am here tonight to urge City Council not to adopt the proposed version of the ordinance relating to Gas Well Drilling and Production and to extend the moratorium. For the last couple of years, I have attended many meetings on the topic of the ordinance re-writing: information meetings organized by the DAG, planning & zoning meetings, task force meetings, the mayoral candidate debate on the topic, the moratorium vote… A lot of the material discussed at those meetings was dry, technical, and often discouraging… not the kind of stuff citizens enjoy spending their personal time learning and talking about. But, like many, I am glad I attended these meetings, because now I have an informed opinion on the matter. And my opinion is that this ordinance is insufficient. It does not take into account many of the recommendations made along the way, and it does not provide Denton citizens with the same level of protection as ordinances in other cities on the Barnett Shale and in other parts of the country. Isn’t feeling safe and healthy in your own city a reasonable expectation to have?
Now, I really like Denton and I’d like to feel comfortable staying here. However, the things that make Denton appealing--its music scene, its many family-friendly events, its Jazz Fest, its Holiday Lighting Festival, and its creative community—all these things will be meaningless the moment our children start getting sick because of the air they breathe or the water they drink. As a matter of fact, children are already getting sick (I can’t keep track of the number of children with asthma and other respiratory issues in my son’s school, not to mention the cases of childhood leukemia, which we now know can be caused by exposure to benzene, a by-product of gas-drilling.) Denton likes to fancy itself a green city (with solar trash cans on the square, 40% of our electricity coming from renewable energy, a great recycling program…), so now is the time to show that the city really cares about the environment and the health of its citizens by imposing stronger regulations on the gas-drilling industry. This industry is inconspicuous by nature. I am convinced that more people would come to these meetings if only they realized that gas drilling is happening within their city limits. Lots of people think that drilling is only happening where wells can be seen. They don’t know about all the underground activity, the emissions near compressor stations, the land-farming practices, etc. Some know, but they’re in denial. It’s hard to accept the fact that your family might be exposed to harmful chemicals on a daily basis, while you feed them organic food and strive to give them the best start in life. On behalf of the many parents of young children in Denton who are justifiably concerned, I ask you to please demand that a better ordinance be drafted and to extend the moratorium until then. Thank you.